Manga-ka: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: June 2008
Synopsis: “Four years ago, Kosaku pulled off an astounding upset in his pro test by KO’ing a big-time boxer. More than simply sending his opponent down for the count, Kosaku also managed to mangle this pretty-boy fighter’s teeth in the process. Now this toothless tyrant is ready for a rematch, but can Kosaku drop down an entire weight class to qualify for the bout?”
Much as I enjoy the occasional volume of Ranma ½ or Inu-Yasha – Rumiko Takahashi’s (arguably?) most well-known titles – there’s nothing quite like going back and re-experiencing one of her older series. One Pound Gospel was a title I missed during its initial run from Viz Media but am more than happy to experience now. Volume one was your standard introductory fare while here volume two takes the ‘professions’ of Kosaku and Sister Angela and plays them for all their worth.
One Pound Gospel is another example of making me care for subject matters I wouldn’t otherwise. Boxing for example – I normally couldn’t care less but when Kosaku is scheduled for a fight in the ring, I’m eager to see what happens. Most of the story however takes place before the matches as Kosaku battles his greatest foe – his own appetite. Constantly badgered by his coach to maintain the weight required to stay in his weight class, Kosaku is always forced to hold back from consuming all the tasty steak, noodles and juice that he wants. Naturally then one of the story’s biggest reliances is the fact he almost always fails.
Kosaku is a fun main character. His stomach controls his life and it’s always a question of whether it comes first or second to his love of boxing. What’s never in question though is his love for Sister Angela. Kosaku’s passion for her gives him a solid fixation that allows for some much needed focus that keeps him from being a purely one-dimensional ball of quirks. One Pound Gospel is built off the contrast between him and Sister Angela. While he lacks self-control, Sister Angela as a nun lives by it. As the story progresses we watch Kosaku learn to control himself better while at the other end of the spectrum, Sister Angela needs to learn to let go and allow herself to fall in love with Kosaku.
Of course this romance comes with its own issues. If the nuns trying their darnedest to keep Angela and Kosaku apart wasn’t enough, Sister Angela battles with her own vows as they pertain to abstaining from romantic relationships. Despite his persistence, Sister Angela still isn’t sure how she really feels for him either. A lot of stories that deal with people ignorant about their own feelings usually drives me nuts but seeing her pray to God for guidance of how to feel or not to feel for Kosaku is more often cute than anything else.
In this volume Kosaku repeatedly asks Angela to agree to promises in exchange for him winning – simply put, if he wins, will she be his girlfriend? Kosaku isn’t entirely naive to her situation however and realizes she’d need to give up her life in the covenant to be with him. Nothing’s as seriously discussed as the concept suggests it could be but I’ve no qualms with that. One Pound Gospel is at its heart another Rumiko Takahashi comedy after all.
Bringing the classic side-character comedy to the story in this second volume is Taro, a once pro-boxer who, after being bested by Kosaku, returns years later with a score to settle. I absolutely love that Taro works in his family’s restaurant where in he has a perfectly practiced smile on his face all the time – the customer service face! Anyone who’s ever done a second of retail will feel for him when cracks appear in his waiter facade, a state of being that comes off entirely outside of work. I hope he’s a continuing character in the remainder of the series.
Only two volumes in and I can already safely say One Pound Gospel is one of my favourite Rumiko Takashi series. I love the simple story that isn’t bogged down with an excess of characters and the budding romance between Sister Angela and Kosaku as they each battle different elements of self-control. I never would’ve thought a love story between a boxer and a nun would be high on my reading priority list but I’m quite pleased to have volume three sitting here in front of me for another fun, lazy-day read.